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Elementary Glossary

BSRA - Bracken School Readiness Assessment. One of the tests used by the DOE to assess children for placement in the Gifted and Talented Program. It is used with the Otis Lenon School Ability Test. It counts for 25% of the grade. The test is a colorful flip book that covers things like colors, letters, shapes and sizes.

Charter School - A independent neighborhood school that receives taxpayer funding but is not bound by many DOE regulations. It has it’s own charter, Board of Trustees and admits students by lottery.

CTT - Collaborative Team Teaching. In an inclusion class setting, two teachers working together one of which has special training for children with special needs.

District 75 - a citywide district that serves special needs children in special schools and programs around the city.

ELA - English Language Arts.

ESL - English as a Second Language. Children are removed from the general classroom for English language instruction for a period of time during the day. They are taught completely in English.

Gifted and Talented Programs - At age four the DOE tests students with the OLSAT and BRSA assessments. If the student places in the 90th percentile nationwide, they will be offered a seat in one of their District’s Gifted and Talented program in Kindergarten. If the student places above the 97th percentile nationwide they may be offered a seat at a citywide Gifted School. These schools are Anderson in the Upper West Side, TAG in East Harlem, NEST+M on the Lower East Side, Brooklyn School of Inquiry on Ave. P in Bensonhurst and STEM at PS 85 in Queens.

Heterogeneous Grouping - Classes made up of children of all ability levels.

Inclusion Class - A class that incorporates a specific percentage of  students with special needs in a general ed classroom. The class is usually set up with collaborative team teaching (CTT) or the student is assisted by a Paraprofessional that is assigned to that child.

IEP - Individual Education Plan. When a child has been identified as needing special education services, it is the official document that contains all the information about the child's current levels of performance, and all other issues related to their future schooling.

Magnet School - A school that receives government funds for special programs that will attract students from many neighborhoods to achieve racial integration and fill the school.

OLSAT - along with BSRA, the Otis Lenon School Ability Test is used to help assess a student's qualification for entrance into the reorganized Gifted and Talented program. The OLSAT comprises 75% of the test. It is unlike the ERB or Stanford Binet in that it is not a test of verbal expression. It requires a child to listen and interpret pictures.

Para - A paraprofessional is a classroom assistant who may work with an entire class or one student with a disability.They are not certified teachers.

Parent Coordinator - A member of the school staff that is the liaison between the parents and the school administration and teachers. They are an invaluable resource for the parents and the first line of communication into or out of the school.

PreKindergarten (PreK) - the fours year. Nursery/Preschools "fours" year may be called "prek". Many public schools have a prek class. It is a free program for children who turn four between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 in the calendar year that the student would attend school. It is not a mandated grade and there are often not enough seats for all zoned families. There is a lottery process throught the Dept. of Education for these seats.

SBO - School Based Option. If 55% of the school's professional staff votes to adopt the Option, the school can modify provisions in the UFT contract. One option is that incoming teachers can be selected by a committee of administrators, teachers and parents.

School Grade ("Progress Report") - The controversial letter grade assigned to a school that is based mainly on tracking test performance. It compares schools in similar cohorts. Schools that have sudden changes in their population's demographics from at risk children to children that are not at risk see skewed results. The main grading factor is the children's progress from 4th to 5th grade. Experts find this an unreliable measure. It also favors schools that have test scores in need of improvement. Many high performing schools have less room to improve on test scores. The parent survey was controversial because parent groups felt that the DOE didn’t ask questions that represented the true interests of the parents.

SLT - School Leadership Team. A group of parents, teachers and administrators that writes and updates the CEP (the school’s business plan). They can also be a conduit for communication between the administration and the parent body. The SLT parent members are elected by the PTA.

TERC - The elementary math curriculum that uses manipulatives, different strategies and a cyclical approach to math concepts.

Title 1 - Shorthand for the section of Federal law authorizing funding to high-poverty area schools with students who need academic help.

Tracking (or homogeneous grouping) - the practice of grouping students of like abilities together. This practice has fallen out of favor at the elementary level. The thinking is that students who may be strong in one area may need help in another, and students with different strengths have been found to make a rich classroom experience that can be very good for everyone.

Whole Language and Phonics - Most schools use a combination of the two techniques for early reading and writing. Phonics is the traditional method of teaching letter sounds and language structure. Whole language encourages children in the earliest stages of writing to use whole words (often with invented spelling) to write as much as possible. While whole language gives children power and often a very individual voice, they sometimes don’t understand the basics of sentence structure and spelling.

Writer’s Workshop - the Columbia Teacher’s College model that has been adopted by the NYC schools for the ELA curriculum. The children have many writers notebooks and journals. They are constantly writing, editing and “publishing” their work. Parents are encouraged to participate in “writing celebrations” where the published work is read and displayed.

Zoned School - your local neighborhood elementary school has a small (often oddly shaped) zone within which your address falls. You MUST check to make sure you are in the zone that you think you are in. Call 311 with your address to get that information. Sometimes it is not the school that is closest to your address. In Brooklyn it is common that there are enough seats for all zoned families who want one in their zoned school for Kindergarten. Often schools have a pre-k class. You may try and get a seat, but you are not guaranteed one. It is possible on occasion to gain acceptance to a school that is not your zoned school. You need to submit a “Variance” (also known as a Placement Exception Request) to your local Enrollment Office.